Komodo dragons are amazing animals. They are lizards, but they have a number of unique changes in their chemistry, which gives them advantages often seen only in mammals. To understand how these large predators have reached their present state, researchers dive into their genes.
A study published in by Nature Ecology & Evolution reveals that Komodo dragons gain their unique abilities through specific genetic adaptations. Comparing the genome of dragons with other similar species, scientists now have a much better idea of which specific genetic strangenesses are responsible for the traits shared by the species.
Komodo dragons are large, but also remarkably fast. This is a rare combination of reptiles, as cold-blooded creatures often lack high aerobic capacity and usually have slow metabolisms.
Investigating their genome, researchers have discovered unique changes in how mitochondria of dragon cells function, and it is believed that this may be at least partly responsible for their impressive capabilities. The benefits to animals include greater metabolism and increased aerobic capacity ̵
In addition, scientists have discovered the reason why the bite of a Komod dragon is not nearly as deadly when members of the species attack each other rather than prey. Researchers already knew that the poison used by the animals included an anticoagulant that promotes bleeding when biting a prey, but when a dragon bites another dragon that has not happened. The team found a specific adaptation in Comodo dragon genes that negates the effects of that specific anticoagulant, allowing two dragons to fight for territory or breeding rights without risking their lives.